13:20 – APPRECIATE IT (win)
It’s a surprise to see just eight runners in the Supreme, but that is a sign of the times.
Some things don’t change, however, and Willie Mullins is holding all of the aces once again.
APPRECIATE IT is simply the best horse in the race. He is unbeaten over hurdles – including two Grade 1s in Ireland on his last two outings – and should take all the beating.
If the ground does dry out, then it will benefit Ballyadam and Soaring Glory, though they will both have to improve to beat Appreciate It.
13:55 – SHISHKIN (win)
Barring any accidents, SHISHKIN should win the Arkle. There are only 4lb between him and Allmankind on official ratings, but Shishkin is in a different league – he’s a better, faster horse who will also stay better.
He was a good winner of the Supreme last season and has been favourite for this race ever since he crossed the line 12 months ago.
If you’re looking for an each-way selection, then Franco De Port is a solid option. He’ll be ridden to pick up the pieces late on and both jumps and stays well. He may be picking up some placed prize money under Paul Townend.
14:30 – ONE FOR THE TEAM (each-way)
Nick Williams is very good at campaigning a horse for a specific race and ONE FOR THE TEAM looks to have had the Ultima mapped out for him all season.
Williams won this race in 2018 with Coo Star Sivola and, with Tom Scudamore – who is having a superb season – booked for the ride, he can be in the winners’ enclosure again.
One For The Team was relatively disappointing last time out, but he will be primed for this race and it’s good to see the market speaking for him, too.
His second behind Next Destination at Newbury and staying-on fifth in the Grade 1 Kauto Star at Kempton reads very well. He’s fairly handicapped off a mark of 140 and looks a good each-way bet.
15:05 – HONEYSUCKLE (win)
HONEYSUCKLE will appreciate every drop of rain that falls at Cheltenham.
The mighty, unbeaten mare has been imperious in her career and was given a peach of a ride to win the Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival last year.
She grinds horses into submission and, if the market speaks loudly in her favour, she will be the one they all have to beat.
I don’t think it’s a strong Champion Hurdle, and her getting a 7lb mares’ allowance should be the difference between her winning and losing.
15:40 – CONCERTISTA (win)
Willie Mullins has farmed this race since its inception – winning nine of the last 12 renewals – but has had to settle for second place in each of the last two years.
This year, he saddles CONCERTISTA, and she really is the one they have to beat.
She bolted up in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at last season’s Festival and has been campaigned to produce her best at Cheltenham once again.
Her rival in the race is Roksana, who has had a very good season, but has been kept busy with three hard races in testing ground and may be susceptible to being beaten by a fresher horse.
16:15 – HOUX GRIS (each-way)
There won’t be too many better-handicapped hoses than HOUX GRIS at Cheltenham this week.
He was pitched into the Grade 1 Juvenile Finale at Chepstow on his stable debut for Paul Nicholls last month and was tanking in behind the 146-rated Adagio and 142-rated Nassalam before making a bad mistake at the second-last.
He’s been given a rating of 128 and there are strong vibes that he has improved since that run at Chepstow. Nicholls has won this race twice in recent years with similar types and I don’t think he will be too far away.
Dermot Weld doesn’t send horses to Cheltenham unless he is expecting a huge run, so I also expect Coltor to go well under Jonjo O’Neill Jr.
16:50 – SNOW LEOPARDESS (each-way)
The final race of the day is the National Hunt Chase – a stamina sapping test over 3m 6f.
Those at the head of the market are much too short for a race as competitive as this one and, on what they’ve achieved, I don’t think they’re good value.
At much bigger prices, SNOW LEOPARDESS and OFALLTHEGINJOINTS make plenty of appeal.
The former is a super jumper of a fence and stays all day long, too. She’s been consistent throughout her career and in good form all season. This marathon trip should suit her well, particularly with a mares’ allowance.
I’ve long been waiting for Ofalltheginjoints to run over this type of trip. He’s always been highly regarded and has some good hurdles form in the book (albeit over shorter trips).
The big question is around the poor form of Colin Tizzard’s stable this season, but he knows how to get them right for a big day and he could run into a place at a huge price.
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